We have been asked if our members would be interested in taking part in a PhD study into how divorce in midlife affects women in particular. Please read the article below and, if you would like to take part, click on the link and fill in the initial survey which is designed to find appropriate participants.
It would be really good if some of our members could take part; this is a desperately under-researched area and we know that the number of people divorcing after long marriages is growing.
Thank you for reading this. If you have any questions, please PM me.
How Do Women With An Empty Nest Make Sense Of Midlife Marital Breakdown
Divorce is a miserable experience at any time, but divorcing in mid-life can be even more challenging. This is particularly true for women, who are often juggling biological chaos, ageing parents and teenage children, whilst simultaneously trying to resurrect a ‘slightly-more-dormant-than-one-had-expected’ career. Cumulatively, these challenges can either undermine a woman’s self-confidence, or liberate her from all sorts of constraints, but either way, the transition is never an easy one.
Although the overall divorce rate has stabilised at around 42%, in mid-life, the odds of divorce are much worse. In 2013 alone, nearly 60,400 people over the age of 50 got divorced in England and Wales and between 1991 and 2011 there has been a 73% increase in the number of divorces awarded to men over the age of sixty; the average length of those marriages was 27 years.
Divorce is not something that women take lightly, particularly after a very long marriage. One US study found that 37 per-cent of middle-aged female divorcees had deliberated for five years or longer before finally deciding to split. Although we have inched closer to equality in other areas, divorce is still a terribly gendered process and women continue to be perceived as ‘carers’ whereas men are assumed to be the ‘providers’. For younger women, with small children, this can be advantageous as they are more likely to be awarded custody
. After all, women head 91.2% of single-parent families. However, custodial issues are rarely an issue for women who divorce in midlife and therefore, the husband’s duty to provide for grown up children is something that he negotiates directly with them.
Because many women who divorce in midlife are ill informed about the nature of the legal process, they assume that their partner has on-going financial responsibility for them. In fact, a middle-aged woman who is employed and/or has assets may find that the reverse is the case. And although we read about celebrities having quickie divorces, women who divorce in midlife are advised not to agree to Decree Absolute until financial affairs have been agreed, which means the process can take much longer.
For all of these reasons, I want to conduct a study which looks at how women with an empty nest make sense of midlife marital breakdown. And I also intend to explore whether using lawyers, or mediation
, makes a difference to the experience, or the outcome. I’m currently recruiting participants to take part and if you think you might be a suitable candidate, do please fill in the questionnaire at the end of this piece. I’m looking for women who are aged 50-65 who have adult children and have already applied for or received Decree Nisi, but have not yet received Decree Absolute. If you fill in the questionnaire and you fit the criteria, I will need to talk to you twice; once now and once in a year’s time. And yes, I know what it feels like because I have been divorced myself and I am also fully aware that my study design looks very neat on paper, but will probably turn out to be very messy in practice. Like divorce.
I am so grateful to everyone who has filled in the questionnaire today, and to wikivorce for supporting this research. I have replied to everyone who has responded but still need more participants, so do please continue to fill it in. It is all anonymous obviously. Many thanks. Suzi